UK police spied on reporters for years, documents show

The Associated Press reports: In January, freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson returned home from vacation to find a brown paper envelope in his mailbox. He opened it to find nine years of his life laid out in shocking detail.

Twelve pages of police intelligence logs noted which protests he covered, who he spoke to and what he wore — all the way down to the color of his boots. It was, he said, proof of something he’d long suspected: The police were watching him.

“Finally,” he thought as he leafed through documents over a strong black coffee, “we’ve got them.”

Parkinson’s documents, obtained through a public records request, are the basis of a lawsuit being filed by the National Union of Journalists against London’s Metropolitan Police and Britain’s Home Office. The lawsuit, announced late Thursday, along with a recent series of revelations about the seizure of reporters’ phone records, is pulling back the curtain on how British police have spent years tracking the movements of the country’s news media.

“This is another extremely worrying example of the police monitoring journalists who are undertaking their proper duties,” said Paul Lashmar, who heads the journalism department at Britain’s Brunel University. [Continue reading…]

Jason Parkinson writes: Now the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and our lawyers at Bhatt Murphy are bringing a judicial review in the high court. Our group of six NUJ members will challenge the collection and retention of this data. We want our files erased and we want a policy to protect all journalists and trade union activists from future state surveillance.

Around 2007, police interest in journalists increased. In those days, it was the infamous forward intelligence teams, or FIT squads. Many journalists faced stop-and-search, often under the Terrorism Act. Just trying to get to a protest we had been hired to cover was a job in itself.

After several years of complaints and launching campaign group I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist, the NUJ launched an investigation into surveillance of its members, in particular police surveillance at the Kingsnorth climate camp and gave evidence to the joint committee on human rights on the scale of the problem. NUJ-funded films Collateral Damage and Hostile Reconnaissance exposed what was happening on the ground, including increased violence towards the press. [Continue reading…]

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